September 12, 2013
Professor Stephen Batham
College of the Canyons
Fall Semester - 2013
Bartolome de Las Casas, in his book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, depicts a horrifying and at the same time humiliating story about Christians who explored the New World. The title alone delivers a strong punch; it carries a message: “There are people who are accountable for the destruction of the Indies.” Even the word ‘short’ is meaningful since it cries out that this is only a tiny particle of the real story. When one ask a question, “What impacts and consequences of European settlement in the Americas?” Las Casas has an answer in the title. It is the destruction. European settlement had tremendous impact and brought devastating consequences to the Americas. Christians changed the territory geographically and without regret exploited its human and natural resources. Spaniards invaded newly discovered lands in the New World, claimed it as their possession, and introduced natives to barbarian wars, treachery, and dishonor. The consequences are clear, from paradise the land was turn to the desert and the indigenous people lost their land, freedom, lives and culture.
Europeans changed geography when they discovered the New World. Unfortunately they did not stop in simply drawing new maps. European settlement had huge impact in the Americas. Spaniards brought new faith and took away land that belongs to the natives claiming that is now belongs to the Spanish Crown. Moreover, natives at first took Spaniards as descendents from God. Las Casas asserts, “Indeed, the natives believed the Europeans immortal and to be descended from the heavens and they welcomed them as such” (Las Casas 126). Spaniards had a perfect situation on their hands; people treated them with respect, brought them gifts and tried to serve them as well as they could. “Indeed,” asserts Las Casas, “the indigenous peoples of the New World are by nature extremely generous and, in their rush to provide the Spanish with more than they need, often hand over everything they possess” (87). Many had gold and lightheartedly brought generous gifts to the new masters. Nevertheless, those gifts only increased a bigger appetite for greed.
Spaniards were not satisfied with gifts alone; they wanted all. They used a tactic of treachery to excerpt more gold and precious stones. Christians imprisoned chiefs and demanded a ransom implementing tortures. Interestingly, according to Las Casas, Spaniards did not rush to explore lands and actually mine for gold. He says, “The natives of Hispaniola know little of mining techniques” (19). However, he does mention that work in the mines is extremely hard. One can conclude that Europeans shared their knowledge in mining to the indigenous people. However, the natives did not benefit from it. For them it was just another way of a slow tortures death. Gold and precious stones was not the only natural resources that interested Spaniards. On the Bahamas they discovered pearl trade. Las Casas states, “The life of a pearl-fisher in these conditions is worse than any other on the face of the earth; it is even more dreadful and more terrible than that of the native gold-miner” (93). Spaniards treated natives inhumanely. The entire population of the Bahamas was exterminated by the profitable enterprise (94). Las Casas notes, “Another occupation in which the natives perished wholesale was shipbuilding” (63). This remark says that progress was crawling into Americas, however, only on Spaniards terms. Exploitation of natural resources led to the human exploitation.
Technically the indigenous people were free. However, the brutes freely enslaved them. In fact, Christians often used indigenous people as a form of payment “for wine or oil or vinegar, or for a side of salt pork” (72). Spaniards treatment was unjustly harsh. They came to the New World not to labor but to…